Weingut Alzinger is located on a magnificent stretch of the Danube 65km west of Vienna, on a majestic bend where the great river sweeps past Unterloiben in the region of Wachau. This is surely one of the most spectacular wine regions in the world, so stunningly beautiful that it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which as the Alzinger website proudly proclaims, makes it “coequal to the pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China “. This is a very special terroir, with the precipitous south-facing cliffs of the Waldviertel soaring to a height of 500 metres – as steep as the Mosel between Bernkastel and Zeltingen and considerably higher. No wonder there is such a concentration of great wine names: Alzinger’s Wachau neighbours include Knoll, F X Pichler, Hirtzberger, Jamek and Prager,as well as the renowned Freie Weingartner Coop.
The landscape is a patchwork of small terraced vineyards, combining steep rocky hillsides with full exposure (typically the preserve of Riesling) and lower less well-exposed silty/loess sites where gruner veltlner thrives. Interestingly, Alzinger’s Loibenberg Smaragd gruner veltliner is from a prime higher- altitude site, higher than both the Steinertal and Hohereck Smaragd rieslings. ‘Smaragd’ (literally meaning ‘emerald’ but referring to a beautiful green lizard that suns itself in sunny vineyards; pronounced more or less ‘smar-act’) is a designation that indicates fully ripe wines of at least 12.5% alcohol and less than 8g/L residual sugar; stylistically it is somewhere between a dry German Spatlese or Auslese and a late-picked rich but not sweet Alsatian wine. The wines from top producers are simply astonishing; there is a very good reason that Austrian wines have become so super-fashionable in the last decade.
The Alzinger philosophy is ‘to simply let every vineyard express its personality’. The wines magically combine very distinct minerality, charming fruit, and elegance. They are so refined and understated that Terry Theise has said “you wouldn’t be surprised if the cellar master was the Dalai Lama”.